Not the first film to feature an unlikely relationship between a drifter tough guy, and a nun (Clint and Shirley been there and done that), Hummingbird is nevertheless, a far more worthy effort. Worthy? a Jason Statham movie? Yup, that's right, this is actually a pretty good movie, with some food for thought, and which is well worth a look.
Tropic Thunder did a good job of poking fun at the thespian rivalries which exist between 'proper actors' and action stars who feel the sting of not being taken seriously at their chosen craft. But what is particularly interesting about Hummingbird and that notion, is that the film's storyline itself is one which has a character who is making a not dissimilar journey into a wider world; that of a traumatised man of action, who wishes to become a man of warmth and compassion, but can find no easy route to where he wants to be. Whether by accident or by design, this makes what we see on screen in Statham's portrayal, almost a film within a film, as we watch him break away from phoning in an easy and comfortable one dimensional tough guy performance, to someone who has to mine a much deeper seam of acting ability.
I've never actually thought Jason Statham was a rotten actor, I suspected he might actually be not bad at it, but we've never really seen him have to do it, because he's never really had the kind of roles where it is necessary in order to get his movies in the can, until Hummingbird that is.
Of course if movies were filmed in sequence from beginning to end, that would have given Jason Statham the gift of being able to evolve his craft as his character in the movie evolves, but since they are not, what we see is Statham demonstrating what I had suspected, that he can actually pull out a pretty convincing, measured, emotional performance, and there is more than one such moment when he is required to do so in Hummingbird. It's not one which will have the Academy and the BAFTAS lauding all over him, but in fairness to Statham, I've seen far worse films and performances get such plaudits regularly.
Unlike a lot of Statham movies, this is not a one man show, with Agata Buzek providing more than the one dimensional love interest we'd typically see in a Statham movie, and in fact being as much a part of the tale as he is. Casting Buzek in the role was an inspired choice. Little known outside her native Poland, and in Germany where she has often worked, she is one of the well-liked and well known stars of European cinema. So we get someone with serious acting chops sharing screen time with Statham, and credit where it is due, he is not outshone by her acting abilities at all. Moreover, unlike most of his movies, where you'd get some carbon copy bimbo as the love interest, instead we have Buzek's frail and unconventional beauty, which suits the role of a slightly awkward young nun who has her own tragedy to deal with alongside that of Statham's character.
This is where the storyline has a good deal of merit, in that the redemption which became the US release's somewhat telegraphed title, we learn, is not only that of Statham's hard man and his guilt over a wartime atrocity, but also that of Buzek's nun, although I won't spoil things by saying exactly what her trauma is.
What emerges, is a gentle and convincing love story, but not a convenient one, nor exactly a conventional one either. This juxtaposes beautifully against the more familiar violent aspects which come as little surprise when we know the typical kind of film Statham makes. It's almost a new genre, an intelligent, emotional action movie.
When we take into account other stylistic touches in the mix, such as contrasting the modern day surveillance in London with the flashbacks of surveillance from Statham's character's wartime experiences, and a colour palette which is often as dark as the two main character's problems, it's apparent that this is a movie which offers a lot more depth and storyline than we are used to seeing in your average Statham flick.
That is not to say the movie is perfect, there are some contrivances and tropes which are occasionally a bit too convenient to make things truly convincing, but having said that, one can forgive these for the purposes of making the unfolding storyline hang together to create a watchable film. It also risks falling between two stools in being perhaps too violent for a girlfriend to cuddle up and watch it with her bloke, but possibly too emotive for many pure action genre fans. But if you like seeing a mental sweat unfold on screen as much as you like seeing a physical one, then it ticks both those boxes to be not only watchable, but one of only a few which does a lot more with the action genre than we are used to seeing, in providing a thoughtful reason for the violence, that thoughtfulness being far more than the typical brief nod it receives in most actioners.
If you can find it on DVD for a fiver, then it will be a fiver well spent, because you will certainly watch it more than once.
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